Community organisations are throwing their support behind sex workers who are advocating for the decriminalisation of the industry in Queensland.

In August, sex worker advocacy group Respect Inc presented Attorney General Yvette D’Ath with a letter signed by 15 organisations calling for the government to commit to sending decriminalisation to the Queensland Law Reform Commission.

The letter, supported by organisations including the Queensland AIDS Council and the Sexual Health Society of Queensland, is the latest effort in an ongoing campaign for sex work decriminalisation.

More than 1,300 letters from individuals in the community calling for decriminalisation have also been sent to the offices of the Minister for Police and Attorney General. 

Criminalisation of sex work impacts the LGBTQI community, with around one in five queer men having been paid for sex, with same-sex attracted cis and transgender women also working in the industry.

In Queensland, safety practices such as working from the same premises as another worker are criminalised, forcing workers to choose between working safely or legally.

Queensland AIDS Council executive director Rebecca Reynolds said the evidence strongly shows that decriminalisation is best practice to keep sex workers safe.

“The fact that the current structure of our legal and compliance frameworks creates a barrier to safety and justice is of importance to all of us,” Reynolds said. 

“Strong workplace laws that protect workers are essential and the same needs to apply for sex workers in Queensland.” 

Sexual Health Society of Queensland president Judith Dean said that decriminalisation will improve worker access to services and support.

“It is our position that the decriminalisation of sex work in Queensland is an important component of removing structural barriers to sex workers accessing health promotion programs, sexual health testing, and support,” said Dean.

In Queensland and some other states, police entrap workers and disproportionately target minorities such as migrant workers.

DecrimQLD campaign leader Janelle Fawkes of Respect Inc said there is wide support for sex work law reform, with many members of the public “horrified” to hear of police posing as clients to arrest workers.

Jules Kim, CEO of national sex worker body Scarlet Alliance, called the government “negligent” in its inaction on decriminalisation.

“The failure of the Attorney General to act means sex workers are forced to choose between working safely or legally every day in Queensland,” Kim said.

“It is negligent of the Attorney General to allow the criminalisation of sex worker safety strategies, combined with police targeting, to continue. This should matter to the Palaszczuk government.”

Trans sex worker Elyse Coles said she joined the campaign to stand up for other trans and gender diverse workers who have been “victims of Queensland’s failed sex work policies”. 

“Decriminalisation is very important to me because it will assist in removing the stigma, discrimination, and isolation that is perpetuated by the current framework and faced by many independent sex workers,” Coles said.

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